LGBT Issues: Expanded Pride Week kicks off 

While a romp and parade in the streets might be the most obvious parts of Pride Week's celebrations, it's certainly not the only aspect of next week's ramped-up festivities (which begin June 16). The festival of pride and visibility for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks, in past years a one-day march with a gathering at the end, has been extended to 10 days (officially a week, with pre- and post-week events) of programming.

There will, of course, still be parties and performers, but the week brings a new focus on advocacy, says Gary Van Horn, president of the Delta Foundation, which is running Pride this year.

"Pride in the Street is the party, and that's to get people to come," he says of the block party happening Sat., June 21, on Liberty Avenue Downtown. "Advocacy is something new that hasn't happened in the past." While that's not entirely true – there have always been information booths and representation from different LGBT-interest groups – this year will see an increase in informational programming.

More than 60 groups will be presenting information at PrideFest, the post-PrideMarch festival. They'll include the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, the Persad Center, the ACLU, the county health department, Tobacco Free Allegheny County, the Gertrude Stein political club and East Liberty Presbyterian Church. The march begins at noon at Grant Street and the Boulevard of the Allies on Sun., June 22 and PrideFest starts after the march, at Liberty Avenue Downtown.

Earlier in the week, Pitt law professor Anthony Infanti will preside over a discussion of his book, Everyday Law for Gays and Lesbians (and Those Who Care About Them) at Borders, in East Liberty, at 6 p.m., Tue., June 17.

"There are differences in the way the law applies to gays and lesbians [as compared to] straight people," Infanti told City Paper in February. "Legislation in that area is very controversial, and I wanted to explain [it] in a way that's readable and interesting."

At the same time, Hoi Polloi, a coffee shop at 1100 Galveston Ave. on the North Side, will be the site of workshops for LGBT folks considering foster parenting or adopting.

"Having this affiliated with PrideFest sends a signal that this is possible," says workshop facilitator Sue Kerr, community outreach liaison with Family Services of Western Pennsylvania. "The fact that our agencies reach out sends a signal that people will be treated with dignity and respect and courtesy. It's really no different than a married hetero couple, there's nothing unique, they have the same requirements. Essentially we treat them like any other couple."

The local grand marshals will be Pittsburgh City Council President Doug Shields, who Van Horn calls "a champion for the LGBT community," for his efforts over the years to make Pittsburgh a welcoming place – most recently, by introducing legislation to create a domestic partnership registry city-wide – and Father Lynn Edwards, founder of the Shepherd Wellness Center, a community center for people with HIV/AIDS.

Mary Lou Wallner is one of the national grand marshals for the event. Wallner's book, The Slow Miracle of Transformation, details her stormy relationship with her lesbian daughter: Wallner's Christianity wouldn't allow her to accept a lesbian in her family. After her daughter's suicide, Wallner re-examined the Bible and her faith, and has become a staunch ally of GLBT people.

The other national grand marshal is Jacob Reitan, an activist who works against what he calls the discrimination of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Entertainment ranges from gay comic, radio talk-show host and writer Frank DeCaro to musician Frederick Ford; American Idol finalist and HIV activist Kimberly Locke; dancer Reina and the Cliks, a band comprised of lesbians and a transman.

Van Horn says the entertainment committee strove for diversity – both ethnic and in sexual identity – in the performers. "There's a lot that we're proud of," he says.


For more information, go to www.pittsburghpridespace.com or pick up Pride Mag, the official event program, at GLBT establishments throughout the city.



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